President’s Message – July 2004

Posted On July 1, 2004

Well, this year does continue to be eventful! I’m writing this about a week after the fire that burned over about a third of our property at Anza – the details are in another article – and the day after our June Black Star Canyon star party was enlivened by the fact that we had to get past the police to get into our site. Our star party, it turned out, was very close to where a sniper had been shooting at people and had himself gotten shot only a few hours before. I’m happy to report that, in spite of the obstructions to getting in and the fact that the club had two other events scheduled that night (an outreach at Riley Wilderness Park and Explore the Stars at Palomar Mt.), we had a very good turnout for the star party and a good time was had by all. There’s nothing like good companionship and clear skies to sooth the mind after traumatic events – at least if you’re an astronomer…

Fire at Anza – Our Thanks to the Firefighters…

The more you look around the burned areas at Anza, the more you realize how much the firefighters had to do to protect the buildings on our site and stop the fire. The most visible signs are cut branches and piles of cut shrubbery from where they cleared the bushes away from vulnerable areas and cleared firebreaks. A lot of work went into this fight, and we are very grateful to all of the firefighters who came to our aid.

As a token of our appreciation, we are inviting all of the local firefighters to our annual Starbeque potluck party, which is set on July 17, along with the July Anza star party. Keep an eye on the website and the email groups ( and for more information, and plan to come to the party and bring a memorable dish to share with them!

…and Plans for the Future

We were very lucky that the firefighters were able to keep the fire from reaching any of the buildings on our site, and that the bulk of the area that burned was the undeveloped area on the northwest portion of the property. The damage it caused in the Mars Hill and Lower Pad areas drives home the fact that we need to get a lot more aggressive about clearing the weeds around the pads and buildings early in the season. Dave Radosevich, our Vice President, was one of the first club members to view the damage on the site, and has pointed out that, if the weeds had been cleared around all of the pads on Mars Hill as called for in the Pad Rules, there would have been no damage to any of the electrical boxes, in particular, as they were damaged by the heat of the weeds burning around them.

By the time you read this, we should know the full extent of the electrical damage caused by the fire, and those repairs should be complete. The destroyed workbench and melted canopy supports should also be replaced; repairs to the Lower Pad area may take longer. Equally important, the weeds around the observatory, 10 Pad Alley, Jupiter Ridge and the other areas that hadn’t been cleared before the fire should be gone – this fire was a wake-up call that we can’t ignore, especially as the official fire season hasn’t even started yet and things will only get dryer and more likely to burn as the summer advances.

For future years, pad and observatory licensees will be expected to clear the areas around their pads pursuant to the OCA Observing Pad Policy no later than May 31 of that year. If you are one of those members who regularly use particular pads when the license holders aren’t there, you could show your appreciation by helping to clear the area around the pads you use. The rules provide that, if a particular pad isn’t maintained, the club can do maintenance and charge the licensee for the cost. Since the danger caused by uncleared weed growth affects neighboring pads and the entire property, we will have to use that rule more aggressively than we have in the past to ensure that the weed clearance (which is part of the required pad maintenance) is done and done timely.

Of course, we’ll also need volunteers every year to help with clearing the areas around the observatory, Anza House, the pads in the Football Field, and the other “general use” areas of the site – there’s plenty of work for everyone! With many willing hands, we should be able to get it done without it being too much of a burden for any one person. You don’t need to wait until next year to help out - if you see any weedy growth around the buildings or the pads out at Anza, please feel free to eliminate it!

Thanks to Member Neighbors at Anza

We are very fortunate that we have several club members who have property in the area of our Anza site and who help keep an eye on it. Tom and Linda Caldwell have a house on the other side of the valley from the club property, and Linda was one of the first people to see the fire and report it – undoubtedly a factor in the prompt response of the firefighters. The Caldwells watched the progress of the fire and the firefighting efforts, and took pictures (they gave us a set for the club archives), and let me know what was happening. They also checked the site the next day, when people were allowed in after the fire was out. We really appreciate their vigilance and help.

We have another set of neighbors who I should have thanked publicly long since for all they do continually to help keep our property safe and secure, and even to help improve it. Jim Hannum, John Kerns and Dave Radosevich own the property “next door” (the “HKR property,” to borrow Russ Sipe’s term, which is actually across the street), and one or another of them is frequently there when our site is empty. Over the years they’ve had their property, they’ve had the practice of regularly patrolling our property when they’re out there, checking on who may be there and for any problems. Jim is often out at Anza during the week, as he’s retired, and he has been very generous in making himself available to deal with problems when nobody else could be out there.

You will undoubtedly recall that Dave was instrumental in renovating the mount for the Kuhn. Because he was involved in that project, Jim and John were also part of it, helping out when needed. Dave decided that, while we were renovating the Kuhn itself, the observatory also should be made more usable, and Jim and John got involved in such projects as the removal of the device that was used to hold the Kuhn’s primary mirror when it was removed or replaced and the box that went over it (this used to be beside the door and was used as a type of stand-up desk, because of its height). I wasn’t there when this was done, but understand that it required hoisting the box and the device (which has a heavy metal frame) over the wall, as it wouldn’t fit through the door, and that this was no small feat.

I was there when John decided that we needed to sort through the stuff that had built up over the last 20 years or so in the bookcase, on the old desk, on the cabinet in the corner and inside it. It was a long job, even with several of us helping, but he kept at it (and kept us at it, too) until it was done – and there was a big pile of eliminated papers and other rubbish, the bookcase was cleaned and filled only with useful items, as was the cabinet, and the desk top and even the cabinet top were cleaned off. There’s no doubt that his efforts have helped tremendously in making the observatory observing area so much more functional and attractive than it was before.

The HKR property was also burned over in the fire that burned part of our site, and they lost all of their natural vegetation. Fortunately, their buildings were also entirely undamaged, though they did get covered with fire retardant. Dave, Jim and John were out there the day after the fire, cleaning up, but still took time to check the club property for damage and to take pictures for those of us who couldn’t get out there that day.

This account only scratches the surface of what these fine members have done and are doing for the club. I’m grateful to them personally for all the help they’ve given me on club matters over the last couple years. One of the pleasures of my position is that I can also express thanks on behalf of the club – Jim, John and Dave, on behalf of Orange County Astronomers, thank you very much for all that you do for us!

I should also mention that, in addition to all the other things he’s been doing, Dave has been repairing the club’s 12” LX200, and cleaning it up in the process. It’s now got clean mirrors and corrector plate, the broken focuser is fixed, and the gears have been cleaned and re-lubricated. By the time you see this, it should be mounted in the Mocat observatory, and we may even have had “first light” on the remote control system. Thanks again, Dave, for your help with this!

RTMC Retrospective

What a difference one week makes! The weekend before the fire was Memorial Day Weekend, which was the annual RTMC Astronomy Expo, and we had a lot of members who attended. We even got a lot of them rounded up for the annual group picture – this one is courtesy of Paul Brewer, whose group pictures came out much better than mine.

I want to thank those members who helped us out with the booth, most notably Carl Fan, who spent almost his entire day there on Saturday, and also a good part of Sunday morning. Other volunteers included Stephen Bobchin, Craig Bobchin and Bob Gill (and I apologize to anyone I missed). Karen Schnabel spent so much time working the booth she hardly had time to do anything else – true dedication, with all the great events going on all weekend!

This year, in addition to the usual books and magazines on sale to benefit the club library, we had a lot of things that I’d pulled from our storage area and cleaned up on sale. These included a lot of lenses of various types, prisms, bits and pieces of binoculars (some with adaptations of different types), mirrors of various sizes, and a fascinating box of what had obviously been a very high precision piece of equipment at some point but had largely been reduced to gears and other interesting bits and pieces. We sold quite a bit, which should help the general fund…but we do have a lot left, and may be making some of it available at our general meetings for people there to buy, if I get energetic enough to bring it in.

All in all, it was a good weekend – I hope that all of you who went out there had as good a time as I did!


Just a reminder – our July star party at Anza is also our annual Starbeque potluck party. At this point, we’re planning to set up between 5:30 and 6:00, and to start dinner at 6:00. The usual place is behind the observatory, which has the advantage of natural shade from the building at that time of day. The club provides plates, utensils, basic condiments (like salt and pepper), napkins and soft drinks, and we’ll have the club barbeque set up for those who want to bring things to cook on it. Bring a dish that will feed about six people, and join us for a fun time sharing good food and good companionship! If all goes well, we may have some guests (as mentioned above), which is all the more reason to come!

When the party’s over, please remember to take whatever remains of what you brought with you – and please lend a hand with the cleanup before you head off to observe!

On the Social Front…

In the last issue, Steve Condrey noted that one reason the Sirius Astonomer got to the printer late in June was that he was moving during the time he needed to put it together. He didn’t mention that he also got married and he and his new wife went on a brief honeymoon – it’s amazing he had any time to think of the newsletter at all!

Congratulations, and best wishes to you and your wife, Steve!

And with that, farewell for this month – and I’ll see you all at the Starbeque!